The rugged natural beauty of Laguna Beach ‚Äď just minutes from UC Irvine ‚Äď is on display in a Langson Library exhibit titled ‚ÄúOpen Air & Light,‚ÄĚ which celebrates the town‚Äôs history as an artist‚Äôs colony.
Laguna Beach is best known for a style of painting called ‚Äúplein air,‚ÄĚ which translates to ‚Äúin the open air.‚ÄĚ The exhibit focuses on the period from 1906 to 1941. Local artists can still be seen perched on the bluffs, paintbrushes in hand, capturing the coastal landscape.
The area‚Äôs ocean views, sandy beaches and rolling hillsides are hallmarks of California Impressionism, made famous by such artists as William Wendt, Isaac Jenkinson Frazee, George Gardner Symons, Edgar Payne and Guy Rose.
Curated by public services librarian Steve MacLeod, the exhibit illustrates how broad support from the community contributed to Laguna Beach‚Äôs rapid emergence as a center for the arts. On display are historical materials from UCI Libraries‚Äô Special Collections & Archives, as well as photos and prints loaned by The Irvine Museum, Laguna Art Museum, the Laguna Beach Historical Society and Bowers Museum.
‚ÄúThis exhibit is unique in that it tells the story of how Laguna Beach inspired artists from all over the world and played an important role in the development of California Impressionism,‚ÄĚ MacLeod says. ‚ÄúMany museums show art from this era, but this exhibit really explains the local connection.‚ÄĚ
By 1917, more than 30 noted artists were working in Laguna Beach, and the Laguna Beach Art Association was founded in 1918 to advance interest in art. The Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters ‚Äď the city‚Äôs signature arts event ‚Äď was established in the 1930s.
The exhibit‚Äôs opening reception drew art lovers and patrons from throughout Orange County, including James Irvine Swinden, president of The Irvine Museum. He gave a talk at the event, noting how the area‚Äôs ‚Äúunbelievable light source‚ÄĚ made it possible for artists to work outdoors all year ‚Äď an impossibility on the East Coast.
On display in Langson Library‚Äôs Muriel Ansley Reynolds Gallery, the exhibit runs through April 2014.